Worlds of music

Colorado Music Festival brings diverse classical offerings to Boulder

So-Min Kang Photography


Michael Christie knows what he wants at Boulder’s Colorado Music Festival (CMF). “Variety is most important,” says the festival’s music director. “What we do is look off the beaten track and then throw in some element that’s surprising.”

Variety indeed: The current CMF season, running June 26 through Aug. 5 at Chautauqua Auditorium, includes orchestral concerts, from Mozart to Mahler; a virtuoso violin mini-festival that features fiddling superstar Mark O’Connor; Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with jazz breaks by the Marcus Roberts Trio; world music that ranges from Gospel to Hawaiian to the percussive force of Street Drum Corps; and a night of “Patriotism and Pops.”

And that’s only a selection of the variety the festival serves up this season. (For the full schedule, go to

For surprising elements, you need look no further than the opening con cert, Sunday, June 26, at 7:30 p.m., which features a completion of the most famously uncompleted masterwork: Schubert’s “Unfinished” symphony. To make the story more unusual, the completion (a third movement based on Schubert sketches and an original fourth movement) is by Marcel Tyberg, an Austrian composer who died in 1944 at Auschwitz and whose music was rediscovered in a Buffalo, N.Y., basement in 1995.

Christie conducted the world pre-miere of the Schubert completion last November.

“Tyberg did this as kind of an exercise just to see what he could do,” he says. “He’s a really masterful composer and keeps all the proportions and harmonies of Schubert. It’s really pretty spooky, especially the third movement, how Schubert-esque it really is.”

Another surprise comes a few nights later (Thursday, June 30, and Friday, July 1), when audience members will see a full jazz trio on stage with the orchestra for Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

“It’s the original Rhapsody in Blue,” Christie explains. “But Marcus’ trio create their own little jazz combo in the middle of it, where the orchestra just stops and he and his trio riff on Rhapsody in Blue.”

Those concerts will open with the world premiere of an overture by Patrick Zimmerli, winner of the CMF’s “click” commission (so-called because patrons of the festival made online contributions to the commission by clicking on the composer they preferred) and close with “Ansel Adams: America” by Chris Brubeck.

“A hundred-and-some-odd of Adams’ photos will be projected during the piece,” Christie says. “The music is not specifically reflective of a photo — it’s kind of like chapters with the music. But I found the music to be big, proud music that really makes you feel good.”

A new development for this year’s festival is “Beyond the Score,” a program pioneered by the Chicago Symphony. On July 21-22, Christie and the Festival Orchestra will perform Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, preceded by a multimedia program borrowed from Chicago that uses slides, video, film clips, narration and Russian folk song to explore the origins and intricacies of the score.

“What I love about this program is that in many ways it continues the audience outreach that we have been doing for a long time,” Christie says. “They’ve got a lot of production value: They’ve got video footage, they’re bringing a Russian folksinger to sing the Russian folksongs that much of Rite of Spring is based upon, so there’s all this extra value that’s way beyond the capability of a small festival.”

On July 28 and 29 the festival will continue its 10-year survey of Mahler’s symphonies — one symphony a year — with the Sixth Symphony. The Sixth is not familiar to most audiences, even though it offers what Christie calls “music of incredible potency, just huge climaxes and incredible energy.

“It’s so direct in what it does, but all the emotions are delivered so profoundly,” he says.

Skipping over the intriguing world music series and several other concerts, the festival ends with a week-long residency by Time for Three, the “classically trained musicians with a garage-band mentality” who were a hit at last year’s festival.

They will present workshops, their own trio concert on Aug. 2, and end the whole festival with the orchestra on Aug. 4 and 5.

“The energy level that these guys bring to the stage is just kind of ecstatic,” Christie says. “For the whole festival it’s going to be really great to have them around so we can get drunk on their energy a little bit.”

And that’s the other thing Michael Christie wants: to share that energy with as many people as possible.